Now available from Open Books Press,
The Sweden File: Memoir of an American Expatriate, Second Edition
Chosen by the Kansas City Star as one (out of 12) of the best memoirs of 2015!
Featured on KKFI 90.1 FM—listen to the segment HERE.
Reviewed by Kirkus—see review here
What leads a top-secret war-policy insider to desert during the Vietnam War? In the case of Bruce Proctor, it was reconnaissance photos: images which showed the bombing of civilian villages in Southeast Asia, despite the administration’s claims otherwise. Appalled by his discovery, Bruce suddenly quit his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency. To avoid the draft, he joined the Air National Guard, but his unit was activated for service in Vietnam. Rather than fight in an immoral war, Bruce went AWOL, seeking refuge in Sweden.
A hybrid memoir set against a half century across two continents, The Sweden File is composed of letters to and from Bruce from 1968 to 1972, his reminiscences forty years later, and his brother Alan’s reflections in 2014. Despite his best attempts, Bruce was never able to learn Swedish, necessary for employment, and he struggled with poverty, a series of difficult jobs, drugs, and alcohol. After four years of trying to fit into a foreign culture, Bruce and his wife emigrated to Canada. At a time when the US has been in constant conflict for eighteen years—longer than the Vietnam War—Bruce’s musings on peace, war, and government deception have a vital urgency.
“I guess more than anything else about this book, and I like many things about it, is the unwavering truth – the unblinking truth the author takes on his journey. It’s rare. There are no literary awards or grandstanding, mind-numbing self-acclamation here, only human beings striving to undo the sorrow of war the best they can. [As a teacher,] I surely would recommend this book to all high school kids, they [sadly] need…to understand [this] aspect of American history neglected and subverted by politicos, often twisting the truth until it’s nothing more than dishrag repugnant with the stench of death. No, in some beautiful way this book is a celebration of the heart’s love of life and truth. Bravo.” – Jimmy Santiago Baca
Mr. Baca is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, as well as essays, memoirs, stories and a screen play which was made into a feature length film (Bound by Honor, 1993). Baca received the American Book Award for Poetry in 1989. He is also a Pushcart winner and the recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature.
“…This book, with its counterpointed perspectives, intimate epistolary narratives, and later commentary, bridges distances of time and place, bringing into focus years when few were spared the grief and sacrifices of a nation led into a distant war that should never have been born….” – David Ray
Poet and essayist, David Ray, is the author of 24 books, the founding editor of New Letters Magazine and—among other honors—has twice won the William Carlos Williams Award, and also the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award.
“Most of us will never find ourselves in a situation in which doing what’s morally right is a serious threat to our well-being. The Sweden File is a book about someone who faced such a situation and made the life-rending choice. It’s an account of a quiet, sustained heroism.” – William Trowbridge
William Trowbridge has authored four books of poetry, three chapbooks and was the Missouri Poet Laureate from 2012 – 2014. Honors include the Academy of American Poets Prize, and a Pushcart Prize among many other awards. Trowbridge is a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at Northwestern Missouri State University.